Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Ernie: I am going to do Singin' in the Rain...
Eric: Gene Kelly did that very well.
Ernie: Yes, but I'm going to do it just that little bit better.


We sit in your front room, which looks like the bedroom of a very rich 14 year old.

We move the pile of this months 52 DC comics (cost: roughly what the government says a single person needs to live on for three weeks); brush the dust of our latest box of Dalek action figures (cost: two weeks child benefit) ; pause disc 27 of our complete Battlestar Gallactica boxed set and say "Oh, you aren't getting worked up about some comic book are you? The original graphic novel will always be there, and anyone who is friendly with psychopaths can find it. You don't even have to read the new thing if you don't want to. It really doesn't matter."

We are, to a man, the same people who said George Lucas Raped Our Inner Children when he made a small change to the screen play of Star Wars and that only a genius like like Peter Jackson could have taken such a boring book and turned it into the single greatest masterpiece since John Logi Baird invented the cinema.

If Geek B says something which Geek A doesn't agree with, then Geek A's first resort is always to say that Geek B is geekier than he is. You think Phantom Menace was a good movie, and I think that it was a travesty, but you are the sort of person who cares about Star Wars so I'm certainly not going to pay any attention to YOU.

We are also the ones who read bad reviews of good movies and say "What right have YOU got to say if a movie is good or bad, having never made a movie yourself? Critics are just embittered frustrated writers! No movie is good or bad there's only what you just happen to like and anyway you are only pretending that you enjoyed the Artist because you don't want to admit you wasted two hours watch a terrible film if you were an honest-to-god all right joe you'd watching Twilight with me wobbly sets wobbly sets wobbly sets."

Goo goo g'joob. Goo goo g'joob.


I am dimly aware that, in the 1970s, some corporate House-Roys tried to write Kirbyless continuations of the New Gods. One of them was called "The Return of the New Gods", which was a pretty good signal to stay away. They might as well have called it "The New Adventures of the New Gods" or "The New Gods Babies." I think I may even own a couple of 1980s issues by people who should have known better and John Byrne.

They are irrelevant. 

The Fourth World is, for better or or worse, and very often for worse, what it is, Hunger Dogs and all. Jim Stalin can pretend that Darksied died, if he wants to. It has precisely the same impact as if I were sitting in a pub and said "Fnaar, fnaar, what if the Green Goblin had a WILLY? Fnaar, fnaar, what if he fucked Gwen Stacy behind Spider-Man's back." It's not part of the comic. It's just something I said when I was drunk. It doesn't become part of the comic even if Marvel inexplicably hire me (say on the basis of some incoherent Star Trek rip-off I worked on twenty years ago) and write "Stan Lee presents" on the front of my sad little wank fantasy.

I haven't read Sins Past. For all I know it is quite good.

Actually, the Fourth World is a pretty bad example, because the original is so definitively enormous that it makes everything that has been pinned on to it after the fact look pitifully small  and insignificant. I can paint a man's willy on my poster of the Mona Lisa if I want to: the Mona Lisa is still the Mona Lisa and I am still a pathetic little child who paints willies on posters. It doesn't become a witty subversion of male sexuality just because I scrawled it on a famous painting. Even if I am quite a good painter and it's quite a good painting of a man's willy. 

And please, please don't say "It doesn't matter that he painted it on the Mona Lisa. He could have painted it somewhere else. Consider the willy on its own merits." It does, he didn't, and you can't

Superman would have been a better example. Everyone has long since forgotten Man of Steel, and I seem to remember that Man of Steel was quite a good comic, provided you pretended that it didn't have anything to do with Superman. If New Gods is a vast adamantine monolith which repels every attempt to paint graffiti on it, which admittedly it isn't, then Superman is more like a vast lake whose composition is only slightly changed when someone pisses it it.

It's rather a shame that so many cooks spoiled Siegel and Shuster's rather piquant broth quite so quickly. It is worth going back and tasting their original flavour from time to time: it really is fresher and crisper and more bracing than anything that was added to it afterwards. But the broth was well and truly spoilt, and Action Comics # 1 now has almost nothing to do with Superman. So many ingredients – Jor El and Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luther, to say nothing of Kandor and Krypto and Kryptonite were added by subsequent hands. Even I am not pedantic enough to say "Superman's news paper is really called the Daily Star, not the Daily Planet, because that's what Siegel and Shuster originally wrote." All Star Superman is connected to Action Comics # 1 only in a manner of speaking, like the lumberjack who said that he still used his grandfather's axe, but admitted that it had had a new handle and perhaps a new head.

There are fans for whom post-Kirby New Gods does matter: it is quite possible to be a fan of Darkseid and never to have read New Gods. There are websites that straightfacedly say that The Great Darkness Saga is the "greatest" Darkseid story. 

They are wrong.



Andrew Rilstone said...

Grant Morrison, you say?

Mike Taylor said...

I assume you've seen these?

NickPheas said...

The slight problem withn your Superman part of the thesis is that Superman surely is the francise that's what it is today because lots of people have worked on it, added to it, enhanced it, and without anyone saying 'No, Superman leaps tall buildings in a single bound. What the hell are you doing letting him fly?'
Indeed, Superman's strongest points have been when creators just pile on the mad stuff. Every colour of kyroptonite under the sun. Minature Superman emerging from Kal-El's eyes. Four armed Superman clones. The Revenge Squad secret base being in a minaturised tesseract implanted in the one place Superman will never look, inside his own brain!
Reverence for the original text would never have given us these things, and without them Superman would be a footnote.

Prankster said...

That's always going to be the problem with comics, and particularly superhero comics, when indulging in this debate; there are far too many examples of superheroes who were improved or at least had vital aspects added to them further down the line by people who weren't the original creators. The impulse is to say "the original author's work is sacrosanct, everything else can be ignored", but that gives you an X-Men comic that's about five people in matching costumes that has nothing to do with prejudice, a Green Goblin who isn't Norman Osborne, and a Superman who can't technically fly.

Even TV, the other ongoing medium with multiple cooks, at least ends up with a "canon" (oops, I went there) that allows the audience to agree on a shared reference point.

And yet I think superhero comics swing too far in the other direction, to the point where there are too many fans with absolutely NO reverence for the creators, and who seem to think of "Marvel" or "DC" as the authors. Which leads to the depressing mentality that everything DC or Marvel chooses to publish is therefore "worthy" on some level, even if they personally hate it. While Jaws II and the post-Fleming Bond novels and that "Mrs. Columbo" spinoff are all allowed to sink into obscurity, Spider-man will forever be haunted by the Clone Saga, and Sue Dibny will always have a pall of ickiness over her even if the next reboot restores her to life.

There needs to be more discussion about the potential dividing line between the original creator's intent and the stuff that came later. Or simply more respect for said creators. But at the same time, I can see not wanting to throw the Kryptonite baby out with the Big Barda Sex-Tape bathwater.

I believe I have just achieved the most tortured metaphor of all time with that one.

Louise H said...

Rather tangentally, I got a message from one of my fanfic forums today announcing that it had affiliated with the Stop-Plagiarism campaign (for stamping out plagiarism of fanfic stories by other fanfic writers).

Sadly I appeared to be the only person in the forum who found this at all funny.

Phil Masters said...

Has anyone commented anywhere that it's kind of amusing that complaints about someone taking an author's characters and buggering about with them in new stories seem to be coming from the creator of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or his fans?

Andrew Stevens said...

Mr. Masters wins the thread.